Perceptual learning in adults with amblyopia: a reevaluation of critical periods in human vision

Dev Psychobiol. 2005 Apr;46(3):222-32. doi: 10.1002/dev.20050.


Critical periods for experience-dependent plasticity are ubiquitous. The idea that experience-dependent plasticity is closely linked with the development of sensory function is still widely held; however, there also is growing evidence for plasticity in the adult nervous system. This article reviews the notion of a critical period for the treatment of amblyopia in light of recent experimental and clinical evidence for neural plasticity. Specifically, adults with amblyopia can improve their perceptual performance via extensive practice on a challenging visual task, and this improvement may transfer to improved visual acuity. Amblyopes achieve this improvement via the mechanisms that have been shown to explain perceptual learning in the normal visual system. It is hypothesized that these same mechanisms account for at least some of the improvement that occurs in the treatment of amblyopia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amblyopia / physiopathology*
  • Amblyopia / therapy
  • Critical Period, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*